Investing in Scrivener is probably the best gimmick I’ve ever succumbed to. After setting everything out into chapters, then scenes, and writing notes on the cork board cards, I can see what isn’t working.
There’s a lot that isn’t working. I have a generous amount of ‘nothing’ going on which is covering the fact that I don’t have a complete story to tell, more of a general ‘well, life is so dreary sometimes’ description.
There are people gifted with the ability to narrate. I am not one of those people.
Yesterday I completed a scene in chapter 1 that started to steer me in the direction of a story. All I have to do now is steer the other 40,000 words in the same direction and I’m laughing.
It will involved a lot of deleting though and to be laughing whilst murdering your characters in certain situations - what is that? Insanity, I think.
I’ve been screaming my way through Stephen King’s On Writing and finding that things are making a bit more sense now that I’ve freed myself from the shackles of plot and theme until the next draft.
I was taught to nail those before getting down to writing, which isn’t bad teaching. It’s just not the right teaching for me. My mind is like one of those hoarder homes, a three-storey townhouse with thoughts and dreams and interests and obscure observations everywhere. It’s so packed that it can’t be defined as crammed and to find anything, you have to move dozens of things whilst remembering where they went.
Plotting and working a theme in that mess is impossible.
I’ve turned my attention to situation, as King has insisted, and plonked Faith in a loose one: something is coming for her. Oh shit, now what?
First she has to riddle out what it is that’s coming for her. Then she has to figure out why this is going to be detrimental to her existence. Then she either has to run or get proactive. Maybe she runs, realises the futility and then gets proactive.
But I have a problem. What’s coming after her? Easy, The Boogeyman. That begs the question of why. Well, why else do monsters come after people? To steal and eat them, of course!
Except this Boogeyman isn’t your typical monster but something akin to Hamlet’s dead daddy, the spectral Other which Derrida assures us is coming, will come, and will take a chunk out of us without us ever noticing because this is the one we could never see coming, not in the lifetime of ever.
So what does this thing from the shadows want? And why Faith?
I never knew my paternal grandmother. She died when I was a toddler. Yet there is a photo on the bureau of a woman in a bi-plane, of all things. My grandmother swanned about a few times in this machine just before the start of the Second World War. If the picture wasn’t there, I’d dismiss the idea as ridiculous. Surely, that remarkable woman can’t be anything to do with me.
I’ve just traced a story that’s incomplete. I have no idea how it connects me to my grandmother because there are things that have been lost, things that were never said and a deference which separates me from the significance of it. There is otherness in both the photo and the idea. I say idea because even my Dad can’t recall what his headstrong mother got up to before she settled down with his dad and had kids.
I find myself wanting something from it though and I believe that this is what the novel is about.
Everyone wants meaning and significance, don’t they? We want to count. We want a history and a story of our own. But what if all we have are fragments? What if something comes along wanting the missing pieces, too?
What if Faith has something the Boogeyman wants?
I’ve returned to my cluttered dust-heap, which I’ve named ‘Square One’ out of a precious lack of imagination, and found the same question I’ve been posing for months:
What does Faith want.
It’s such a demanding question that it no longer requires a ? and has taken on a declarative air. Now that I’ve dumped Faith in the middle of a family death and threatened her with the Boogeyman, it should become clear, through her reactions, what she wants.
I’ve created a character who is so unique in her reactions and perspective, even she doesn’t know what she wants. Why? Because she doesn’t understand why she should want anything. At least until I start taking stuff away from her, then she’ll want them back.
In short, I’ve made a too-content character and because she’s a good girl, meekly shown her the naughty corner (threat of this Other coming to get her), and patted her in the head for it.
No wonder I don’t have a story.
My only redeeming insight, which came last week (took its poxy time), is that Faith is unable to read properly due to raging dyslexia and is possibly, walking around with mild autism. This is great because it means she’ll have to read to deal with the Other.
It’s hardly genius, I know, but I needed a problem, I created one and there it is. Faith can’t read properly. It fucks up many an aspect of her life.
Still. No. Story.
I’m going to have to riddle this one out for a spell and in the meantime, try not to delete everything out of despair. All 42,000 words are workable. It’s just a shame I’m not as pliable right now.